What are superfoods, and how do they support our physical health?
Superfoods are nutrient-dense foods that offer a plethora of health benefits. Packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other essential nutrients, superfoods can significantly boost your overall health and wellbeing. Anyone who takes their health seriously should be including superfoods as part of their daily diet, as regular consumption supports immunity, heart health, physical health and more.
Superfoods have been scientifically proven to positively impact our bodies, and are more and more frequently being advised by medical professionals as a way for people to live longer, healthier lives. If you’re looking to improve your overall wellbeing and make healthier lifestyle choices, learning about how our bodies work and the foods they need to function optimally is a great place to start.
Here, we will explore different types of superfoods and how they support our physical health.
What makes a superfood?
We know superfoods are nutrient-dense, but what determines superfoods from normal foods? Although there’s no technical classification, the term superfood refers to foods that are known to be good for our health, as a result of scientific studies showing positive correlations between certain foods and cell function. A superfood has been proven to contain multiple nutrients that support elements of human health, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fish and eggs.
It seems there is always a new tea, plant root powder or exotic food that’s being promoted as the latest superfood must-have, but it’s important to focus on variety. A healthy diet should include a wide variety of foods from all categories. Focusing on eating colourful, fresh meals, rather than focusing on a few trending superfoods, is a good way to ensure you aren’t overconsuming any specific nutrients and missing out on others.
Longevity and mobility
Protein is often deemed the number one thing you need for a healthy, strong, active body – but there are a myriad of other essential nutrients we need in our diets to stay fit, too. For example, vitamin D, calcium and magnesium are key for bone health, helping to maintain bone density and strength. Eggs, cruciferous vegetables and dairy products contain these nutrients alongside protein, which will offer you a more balanced health boost than consuming a protein powder alone.
Magnesium and vitamin C are also essential for proper muscle movement and function, so whether you’re looking to stay mobile as you age or are a fitness enthusiast, you’ll need to consume a wide variety of superfoods to support your physical health. Add salmon, almonds and spinach to your diet for optimal bone strength and muscle function, and be sure to stay hydrated too – water is often one of the most overlooked aspects of prolonged health.
Boosted immunity and disease prevention
Many superfoods are rich in antioxidants, which help combat oxidative stress and reduce inflammation throughout the body by neutralising free radicals – molecules that can lead to serious diseases and cancers if they build up. This is crucial for longevity and protection from heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and vision loss. Eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is a great way to ensure you’re eating a good selection of antioxidants in your diet.
Colourful fruits like blueberries and peppers, beans and legumes, and some spices such as turmeric are high in antioxidants and polyphenols – protective compounds that reduce inflammation throughout the body and protect against many diseases. These superfoods support our body systems by protecting our cells from DNA damage and helping to inactivate carcinogens, which both contribute to degenerative diseases such as cancer.
Heart and brain health
As the most vital organs in our bodies, we should all be prioritising eating foods that benefit our hearts and brains. Dark, leafy vegetables such as broccoli and kale contain many nutrients and vitamins to do just this, including B vitamins, iron, magnesium and potassium. Eating superfoods protects you from cognitive decline, with some of the best to consume being fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Staggeringly, nearly 60% of your brain is fat, and it’s essential for proper brain function, memory and learning – so don’t skip out on eating healthy fats.
Nuts are an important part of heart health, and research shows eating a variety frequently can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. You can find almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios and macadamia nuts in most supermarkets, and don’t be put off by thinking they’re too calorific for your diet. Although nuts do contain fat, it’s unsaturated fat which is known to reduce cholesterol levels and support heart health.
Choose whole foods over supplements
There’s a large selection of superfood supplement powders, shakes and tablets available, but it’s widely accepted that eating whole foods is a much more effective way to reap the benefits these foods have to offer. Whole foods contain a combination of nutrients that work synergistically, so consuming them offers a stronger impact than when eaten separately. The nutrients in whole foods are also more bioavailable for your body to digest than in supplements, where they’ve been extracted, processed and dried. The process also destroys many of the antioxidants and other chemicals that make superfoods so important for health.
Superfoods in their whole form also contain fibre, which is essential for digestive health and helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Not eating enough fibre can lead to constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and low energy levels, and experts recommend around 30g per day. Most people don’t eat enough fibre, so if you want to add superfoods to your diet, eating them whole will help up your intake.
Eat the rainbow
Superfoods really do support our physical health in many ways. From boosted immunity and protection against diseases, to correct functionality of our bodies and minds – eating a varied, colourful diet seems to be the key to longevity and optimal health. If you want to give your diet a health boost, stick to whole foods rather than supplements and look for easy ways to add superfoods to your existing diet.
It can be easy to get sucked into the hype when it comes to superfoods, but you don’t need to spend lots of money on the latest trends. Focus on a consistent, varied diet and try to cut down on highly processed foods to support both your physical and mental health.